When you’ve been injured in any type of an accident, one of the first and most important things you’ll need to do is establish who all the potentially responsible parties are. That entails identifying exactly what caused your losses and whose actions contributed to your injuries. What if you were partially at fault for the accident? Are there ways that your actions, as the injured person, can have an impact on your right to recover for all your losses?
The legal doctrine of contributory negligence looks at the extent to which your own actions contributed to your losses. As the law of personal injury evolved over centuries, the doctrine of contributory negligence held that, should there be any degree to which the injured party caused or contributed to his or her own losses, there could be no recovery of any kind. Perceiving this to be overly harsh (and responding to defense attorneys who argued that even the slightest degree of negligence precluded an injured party from any recovery), the modern trend has been toward the concept of comparative negligence.
Under the principle of comparative negligence, the court looks at the total losses suffered by the injured party and reduces that amount by the percentage of liability allocated to the plaintiff. For example, if the total losses were $100,000 and the jury determines that the plaintiff was 25% responsible, the damage award will be reduced to $75,000.
There are two approaches, however, to comparative negligence. Under the “pure comparative negligence” rule, the plaintiff is always entitled to something, even if he or she was primarily responsible. Under the modified comparative negligence standard, a plaintiff will only recover compensation if his or her negligence falls below a specific degree—typically 50 percent.
Failure to Mitigate Damages
There’s another way an injured person’s actions can have a negative impact on a damage award—if the plaintiff fails to act reasonably to mitigate (or minimize) the actual damages. For example, if a person injured in a motor vehicle accident fails to seek medical treatment or refuses to follow the doctor’s prescribed regimen, that person may not be able to recover compensation for damages that would reasonably have been avoided otherwise.
Contact Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie, Seelaus & Kraft LLP
At Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie, Seelaus & Kraft LLP, we have fought for the rights of individuals throughout Delaware County since 1980. We offer a free initial consultation. To schedule an appointment, call us at 610-565-4055 or 302-594-4535 or contact us online.
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